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3.4 out of 5 stars17
3.4 out of 5 stars
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In the early part of the last century, Barcelona was horrified by the crimes of a the real-life Enriqueta Marti, a child murderer and procuress. The city’s population had been swollen by wave after wave of peasants and working class people, together with soldiers returning from the Moroccan Wars. Atrocious slums developed and the lack of employment meant that everyone was trying to scrape a living by whatever means they had at their disposal.

Among this maelstrom of poverty and desperation, Enriquesta Marti began to horrify the population with a series of child abductions and murders, the full of extent of which only became known when she was discovered and arrested. It is possible that she was the most prolific murderer every active in Spain, so many were the remnants of small bodies found in her apartment and other properties. The final tally of her murders is now unlikely ever to be known.

Marc Pastor, a Catalan writer and also a professional crime scene investigator has written a novel based on the short period leading up to the arrest of Enriqueta Marti. Amazingly, he finds a way of doing this which does not terrify the reader with the gruesomeness of the crimes, by focusing on a policemen, Moisès Corvo who is investigating the disappearances, along with his sidekick Malsano. Despite the seriousness of their quest keep a nice line of scurrilous banter going as they travel around the dark places of the city.

Corvo is a well drawn character who would have the making of a fine fictional detective if Mark Pastor felt inclined to write another novel set in Barcelona. We read a lot about his back story, his child-less marriage and his disappointed wife. He has a profound world-weariness but his detective work keeps him going, along with relationships with women of the night and a never-empty bottle on the table.

Marc Pastor is a great fan of Gothically-flavoured fiction by 19th century writers like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allan Poe and this novel is best seen alongside those of his forebears. Although the story is horrific, the author makes a brilliant work of fiction out of the bare bones of the case. It would have been easy for him to make his book a litany of pure horror, but he restrains his pen and turns it into a sort of pastiche of horror fiction, funny at times and always full of word pictures which make his scenes stand out from the page.
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on 17 February 2014
Barcelona Shadows has, at the heart of its story, the true and horrific crimes of Enriqueta Martí from more a century ago in Spain.

Although a detective novel of sorts, Marc Pastor’s prose is more than just detective novel – but that is where this hasn’t worked for me. He pays homage to other authors and genres, which is fine, but to the deficit of any real detective work or believable crime solving, or of a more detailed account of Enriqueta Martí and her horrific crimes, and of what actually happened to her in the end.

It was also the style of the narrative that spoilt it somewhat for me, as I wasn’t too keen on the use of an abstract entity in the narrative.
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on 23 May 2015
Barcelona 1917 and the city is in the grip of fear. Amongst the poverty and need, the people are scared as children are disappearing off the streets. A body is found, twisted and drained of blood, and the rumours of a vampire at large in the city grow. The local police are of two minds, Corvo wants to track down the killer at any cost but his superiors are less keen. Could it be because they are aware of the vice that lurks in the darkest parts of the city where anyone is for sale, regardless of age?

This is short book and a beautifully crafted one, the story is based on true events and is horrific. Barcelona a hundred years ago was a rough place with huge distinctions between poor and rich which meant that the vices and depravity were not always investigated. Using 'Death' as a narrative voice is novel and lends a different perspective. The translation is generally good but sometimes adds a discordant note by the use of certain vernacular which doesn't seem right, eg. 'bum'. That is the only niggle though, this is a gripping gothic tale.
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on 1 May 2014
It took a while to get into due to the unusual narrative and maybe because it was translated but you get a real feel for Barcelona in that period plus the story was compelling and a bit scary. I admit to skipping a few of the gory bits! I read it for my book club so anticipate lots of discussion. Really enjoyed it despite the ending.
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on 22 November 2014
Barcelona Shadows is a fantasy piece set around a real part of history and the horrible crimes of Enriqueta Martí who was arrested in the early 1900’s. The take on these crimes leaning them into a fictional horror tale is a work of genius, I was surprised at what a good job of this Pastor was able to do. Using the main character of Inspector Moises Corvo as the focus is done to great effect, corvo is a gritty and downtrodden character, his role is played out exceptionally well and the dialogue present throughout does a good job of allowing the reader to focus on the events instead of just overwnelming you with shock and gore (which tends to be the big let down of modern horror for me.)
As far as I am aware This is the authors first novel, if this is the case then there is more promise on show than with many accomplished in the genre. His love of the gothic is very apparent and attention to detail is superb.
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on 5 August 2015
Barcelona Shadows is an interesting read, written in a Gothic style and drawing upon atmospheric classics by Wilkie Collins, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Conan Doyle. The book also has an interesting take on the concept of the unreliable narrator (here's a clue he draws comparison with late 60s Jagger-Richard lyrics). Characters are interesting, and Barcelona backdrop works well. To note elements of gothic literature, horror and crime; so buyer beware, not a crime book set in modern day Barcelona.
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on 25 June 2014
Strange, frantic and frustrating book. Made all the stranger by being translated. Would like to read it in the original text. Be prepared for quite a tale.
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on 10 February 2014
Bought this after a review with the author on bbc. Was not disappointed. You have to keep reminding yourself that this is based on a true story!!
Would recommend this highly.
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on 14 March 2014
Set in the sleazy world of Barcelona in the early years of the 20th century, this story of the hunt for a child killer starts with an unusual twist, in that it is narrated, it seems, by Death. You can follow the twists and turns of the plot (it's a real page turner) and find yourself warming to some initially pretty unpleasant characters in the form of the two detectives at the heart of the story, who maybe just seem sympathetic by comparison with everyone else in the story. Give it a go if you like crime fiction but would like something a little different. Scary to think that it is based on a true story!
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on 5 August 2014
A strange and weird book... an original story but a little too drawn out...
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